Digging through some old stacks of magazines in my house, I came across a very interesting discovery. Something that I never thought I would be able to find. The 1998-99 Official Rangers yearbook.
I looked through the pages like a little kid looking at a flip book. So many unforgettable names, so many names I want to forget, and while looking back at some of the players makes one wonder how a team like that could possibly be put together, it still was nice to look back. Here are some of the cool things, and the bad things, I found throughout the pages of the 10 year old yearbook.
First, I'll start with the positive things, because frankly, it'd be a lot shorter of a section.
Looking at the player pages, I remembered some of the autographs I had gotten. While I didn't have a Wayne Gretzky autograph, Adam Graves signed his picture. Other players who signed their pictures were Mike Knuble, Manny Malhotra (he'd be SO much better if then coach John Mucklerhadn't treated him so badly), along with Brent Fedyk, and Kevin Stevens. There also seemed to be some white residue under it, have no idea what that is.
Three players that grabbed my attention, together would make a line that would make Sean Avery look like an angel. Todd Harvey, PJ Stock and Esa Tikkanen. Three players that would never stop talking, never stop annoying you, and frankly, if I had to skate against them, I might just leave the ice and wait for them to leave. Remembering those three guys really gave me a little tickle inside. It's one of the few fun things to think back to in those years.
I think that's about it for some positive aspects of the book. The bulk of the article is some pretty negative thoughts about this, here is a look at those pages I want to forget.
To start the book, their are pictorials about certain words that could be applied to the team, or what they hoped would apply to the team at least. "Achievment. The difference between failure and success is doing things nearly right, and doing them exactly right."
While the pictorial has pictures of Brian Leetch with the cup, the Norris Trophy, and the Calder Trophy among others, the New York Rangers didn't really have much on the achievement radar in the 1998-1999 season.
Next, comes "Preparation. The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital." The pictorial is a bunch of rangers on stationary bikes right by the beach, looking off in the horizon.
This really doesn't make sense. Judging by the picture, they had the will to prepare, but judging by the season, the will to win wasn't there. Guess which proved to be more, well, vital.
Next, you will find a picture of Alexei Kovalev trying a wrap around. The picture is for perseverance. "Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance." I don't think I need to say much about that, other then, it clearly didn't apply.
The pages go on with inspiring words that wound up having nothing to do with the team, and sentences to dramatically describe them, aswell as an advertisement that states that JC Penney is the Rangers apparel headquarters. How times have changed.
Now, what you've all been waiting for, the New York Rangers roster for the 1998-99 season. In alphabetic order, it goes as follows:
Jeff Beukeboom- BEEEEUUUUUUKKKKKKK!!!!!
Dan Cloutier- Aside from the beating he gave to Salo, there weren't many good moments from this one.
Brent Fedyk- His autograph is there. Don't remember much of him, other then an aggressive puck pursuit style. He was also an eighth overall pick by Detroit in 1985.
Jeff Finley- uhhhhh......ummmmm....I guess that says it all.
Scott Fraser- Nope
Adam Graves- Gravey's number will go up to the Garden rafters this season, and it will be a special night. Not one of the best seasons for Ranger fans, but hey, Graves was there right?
Wayne Gretzky- Who???? Only kidding. If Messier was with the team, maybe we'd still be a playoff team.
Todd Harvey- The Rangers Sean Avery of that time, Todd Harvey wasn't the best of fighters, but he never hesitated when it came to getting rough.
Mike Knuble- He didn't produce as much as he is now, but Mike Knuble was never an awful player in his two years.
Alexei Kovalev- Will new Ranger Nikolai Zherdev be Kovy #2? Tons of skill, not enough effort. Could he of made enough of a difference to make the Rangers a contender that year? Probably not.
Darren Langdon- Can't question his effort, but maybe his offensive skill you can. He put up a lot of PIM with the Rangers and would always stand up for teammates. Gotta love Langdon.....or maybe not.
Brian Leetch- HE HAS THE C!?!?! Greatest defenseman in Rangers history. To bad he couldn't lead the team to much that season.
John Maclean- One devil that made the jump over the river, also one of the guys who made that jump that didn't make a great impression
Manny Malhotra- He stepped right in as an 18 year old in 1998, and probably shouldn't have. He showed some promise, but a little bit of Muckler's magic quickly turned him in to an after thought. Neil Smith boldly predicted that he'd eventually be an NHL captain. He has been far from it though.
Manny, who was our 6th overall pick, has gone on to have a respectable NHL career. The one time OHLScholastic player of the year (yes, it says that in the yearbook) has now played 9 NHL seasons and is playing a good depth role in Columbus. Best of luck to you Manny, and thanks for the autograph.
Jan Mertzig- Who?
Peter Popovic- Ranger fans tore Marek Malik apart because he didn't use his size to be Physical. The 6-6, 240 defenseman Peter Popovic played a game, that in an era that his size automatically made him a good defenseman, was the opposite of what you would expect. More or less, a not very effective one.
Mike Richter- His number is already retired in the MSG rafters, and for good reason. The Rangers however, couldn't provide enough support to Mike, who wound up with some pretty sub par numbers that year, to get in to the playoffs
Ulf Samuelsson- A pest on the blue line, this swede played a style that Ranger fans have consistently enjoyed watching. Ulf The Wolf was solid for us, in a year we weren't very good
Mathieu Schneider- One of just four guys on that team still in the NHL (five if you count Cloutier, who was around last year) Mathieu has consistently been a real good defenseman. He was recently traded to the Atlanta Thrashers from the Anaheim Ducks, but he has been playing good hockey his whole career. Why we let him go, I have no idea.
Kevin Stevens- A lot of off the ice issues with this guy, it's tough for him, and he's been trashed a bit on here. Hopefully all goes well with him in the future.
P.J. Stock- Another agitator on that team, P.J. Stock offered a lot of energy to a team that really seemed to lack it, other then a few players
Niklas Sundstrom- The Swedish Olympian was a very solid two-way forward. Unfortunately, it didn't bring the Rangers in to the playoffs.
Esa Tikkanen- Tiki Talk. Need I say more?
Harry York- Barely played here at all. The yearbook was probably made a few days before he was traded.
Last, but, well probably least was the Hartford Wolfpack section of the book. Looking at our system, it is pretty depressing.
There were some players that did play in the NHL though. Most Notably, Marc Savard. It's tough to think about how we could have had him. That's all I have to say about that. Other notable (somewhat) players included Rangers goon, and half lunatic, Dale Purinton, as well as BR Rangers community leader Greg Caggiano's favorite player Christian Dube. Boyd Kane played a few NHL games here and there, and still plays in the AHL with the Phantoms.
Johan Witehallwould play a little bit with the Rangers, and Canadiens before retreating to Europe to play, and now Hartford head coach Ken Gernanderwas also a player with the Pack, whom he played for until 2004-2005. Other then that, there isn't much to remember from the 1998-1999 Hartford Wolfpack.
Obviously, there weren't many happy memories from that year, or any of the next few years either. A team that seemed to have little hope for the future wound up getting rid of all it had, and it was definitely a year that Ranger fans want to forget. So why bring it up? I really do not know.